Transgenders to enlist as Trump appeal continues

WASHINGTON (BP) -- Transgender people will be able to enlist in the U.S. military beginning Jan. 1, the Department of Defense announced Monday (Dec. 11).

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The announcement followed a federal judge's ruling the same day that allowed a court order to remain in effect that blocked President Trump's ban on transgender people in the armed forces. Trump said in a series of tweets in July the federal government would not permit people who identify as a different gender than their biological sex to serve in the military.

The Pentagon said Dec. 11 it would accept transgender applicants beginning the first of the year while the Department of Justice appeals court rulings in an attempt to permit an ongoing policy review that is to be completed before April.

Southern Baptist ethicist Andrew Walker expressed compassion for those who identify as a different gender than their biological sex while voicing disagreement with the Pentagon's action.

"Baptist Christians are sensitive to the difficult psychological realities that gender-confused individuals experience and extend compassion to them in Jesus' name," Walker, director of policy studies for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), told Baptist Press in written comments. It is a mistake, however, "to take the position that adopting a gender identity at odds with one's biological sex is either a truthful expression of one's identity or in the best interest of gender dysphoric individuals," Walker said.

"The ideology behind transgenderism is at odds with the Bible's teaching on God's design for us as males and females," said Walker, author of the recently published book "God and the Transgender Debate." The issue "signals how deeply the confusion runs in the culture about what it means to be made in God's image and, tragically and regrettably, codifies into policy a worldview running contrary to a biblical understanding of human flourishing."

In his comments on the developments, gender issues specialist Bob Stith quoted the late writer and philosopher G.K. Chesterton, who said, "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions."

"This is good advice for us as a nation as we plunge headlong into the brave new world of transgenderism in the military," Stith told BP in a written statement. "All the legal explanations ignore some basic facts. One is that whatever you can accomplish surgically will never change what DNA makes clear. DNA will always reveal the gender of birth."

Stith -- founder of Family and Gender Issues Ministries in Trophy Club, Texas, and formerly the Southern Baptist Convention's national strategist for gender issues -- said the action serves as a reminder for Christians.

"Regardless of what the courts and culture say, we must be conscious that these are real human beings caught in a situation for which they did not ask nor do they understand," Stith said. "While we disagree with the assessments of those so anxious to plunge headlong into this brave new world, we must stay focused on the challenge of being compassionate and redemptive to all those trapped in sexual confusion.

"Too many are willing to employ a scorched-earth policy on this and similar issues, but our focus must always be on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This alone offers true answers to the sexual confusion of our times," Stith said.

Federal Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the District of Columbia said Dec. 11 the Trump administration failed to meet the requirements for her to lift her stay on the ban on transgender military service. The administration had appealed her preliminary injunction to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and asked her to permit the ban to stay in effect during the appeal process.

The administration is unlikely to succeed based on the merits of its case, Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her nine-page order Dec. 11. She also found unpersuasive the administration's argument that its policy would be "irreparably harmed" if the military begins receiving transgender people Jan. 1.

In another decision Dec. 11, a federal judge in Seattle also ordered an end to the transgender military ban, The New York Times reported.

Supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights applauded the developments.

"The military has studied this issue extensively and determined that permitting qualified transgender people to enlist and serve will only strengthen our nation's armed forces," said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, in a written release. "This administration's claim that allowing transgender people to enlist will lessen military preparedness is contradicted by the military's own conclusions."

In announcing the ban in a series of three tweets in late July, Trump said, "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow [t]ransgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you."

Trump's announcement came a year after the Obama administration repealed the prohibition on transgender men and women serving openly in the armed forces. Then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter set a deadline of July 1, 2017, for implementing the new policy, but new Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced June 30 a six-month delay in enlisting transgender people.

Estimates of the number of transgender people already in the armed forces vary. The Williams Institute -- a pro-LGBT think tank -- has said about 15,500 transgender individuals serve on active duty or in the guard/reserves. Last year, a study by the Rand Corp. estimated 2,450 transgender people are on active duty and 1,510 in the selected reserve, whose members are often referred to as "weekend warriors."

In 2014, messengers to the SBC's annual meeting approved a resolution regarding transgender identity that "affirm[ed] God's good design that gender identity is determined by biological sex and not by one's self-perception." The resolution "regard[ed] our transgender neighbors as image-bearers of Almighty God and therefore condemn[ed] acts of abuse or bullying committed against them." It also said, "[W]e continue to oppose steadfastly all efforts by any governing official or body to validate transgender identity as morally praiseworthy."

In addition, the resolution said, "We invite all transgender persons to trust in Christ and to experience renewal in the Gospel."

In August, a coalition of evangelical leaders, including about 70 Southern Baptists, addressed transgenderism in The Nashville Statement, a document on biblical sexuality. In the document, the signers said they deny "adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God's holy purposes in creation and redemption."

They also said, "We affirm that the grace of God in Christ enables sinners to forsake transgender self-conceptions and by divine forbearance to accept the God-ordained link between one's biological sex and one's self-conception as male or female."

Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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